MPs losing confidence in agriculture department

Members of parliament’s portfolio committee for agriculture, forestry and fisheries recently lashed out at departmental officials, saying they weren’t taking their work seriously.

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“I’m bitterly disappointed in the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ (DAFF) progress and I’m afraid that between now and 2014 we’ll see very little progress in addressing South Africa’s agricultural challenges,” said ANC MP and farmer Salam Abram.

The committee members were reacting to a briefing given in parliament on DAFF’s first-quarter performance against its strategic plan by Peter Thabethe, the former acting DG.“The document you gave us today contains very little substance and in my opinion it’s not worth the paper it’s written on. The department isn’t serious about solving the problems facing agriculture,” said Abram.He added that agriculture minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson was trying to micromanage the department.

Another ANC MP, Manana Mabuza, accused departmental officials of infighting and intimidation, saying they were preoccupied with trying to further their own careers and weren’t focusing on their work.

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DA MP Lourie Bosman said the department didn’t seem to care about ensuring food security in the country because it didn’t have any programmes in place focusing on achieving this. Thabethe said the department was reworking the issue, as there was currently no strategy to deal with it.During a press conference at parliament, Joemat-Pettersson said the DAFF’s food security plan would be presented at a stakeholder summit in October this year, after which it would be finalised and then launched on World Food Day on 16 October.

The “zero-hunger-plan” will address high food prices and challenges in agricultural production and look at how government can support subsistence farmers, she said.